The Tour is over, long live the Tour!
Or words to that effect. Yes, Le Tour de France Femmes is back, now in its second year of the new and improved incarnation (avec Zwift), with an 8-day Grand Tour that forms the peak of the Women's World Tour season ahead of us.
We'll be with you every step of the way, providing stage previews, analysis, background information and plenty of entertainment too - subscribe if you haven't already to make sure you don't miss any of the content that the team have coming up for you.
Let's check out the action from stage 1, in which a slow build of a stage exploded and SD Worx did, well, SD Worx things. And much more...
PRÉPAREZ VOS MUSETTES!
def: prepare your musettes!
Speedy stage preview
Stage 2 - Clermont-Ferrand - Mauriac (151.7km, Hilly)
What's that coming over the hill? It's the Tour de France Femmes peloton and guess what? They have another 5 hills to go over after that, too. Yes, it's the kind of day that threatens to blow the whole thing apart when it's barely begun and of course, we love to see it.
Beginning once again in Clermont-Ferrand, the race will travel 151.km over rolling terrain to Mauriac, where an uphill finish will inflict yet more damage on a peloton that's likely to be in shreds by the time they arrive there.
Yes, it's an early chance for the GC contenders to size one another up and to test out their legs and see how they measure up, and the protagonists will be hoping to strike an early blow to the confidence of their rivals - we're looking directly at Demi Vollering and Annemiek van Vleuten, who will both look at the climbs as an opportunity to attack. They won't be alone however, as with most of the climbs relatively short, there will be plenty more riders capable of challenging - but they will have to play it smart.
PREDICTION: SD Worx are on top right now, and without the length of climb suited to her Annemiek van Vleuten will struggle to hold on to Demi Vollering. Vollering will win solo and take the yellow jersey from her teammate on tomorrow's stage.
APRÈS L'EFFORT, LE RÉCONFORT
def: after the effort, the comfort
Taking a look back at the day's action.
Stage One: in Review
by Peter Barnes
The Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift is back and the first stage took the riders from Clermont-Ferrand to Clermont-Ferrand over 124km. On the route were the Intermediate sprint and one QOM climb, which occurred reasonably close to the finish. Some pundits suggested this would be a sprint stage, others thought it would be for the GC riders. In the end it was neither. As Lotte Kopecky attacked with 500 metres to go, the already reduced bunch then capitulated.
It was a pleasure to see the stage in full, and although there was no exciting breakaway that we are used to, a couple of riders tried their luck. Firstly it was Marie-Morgane Le Deunff (Arkea-Samsic) with April Tacey (LifePlus Wahoo) trying to follow.
When those riders were brought back, Typhaine Laurance (LifePlus Wahoo) and Amandine Fouquenet (Arkea-Samsic) had their go at forming a breakaway, both teams clearly trying to be active and visible. Unfortunately, during the initial phase of the race, Mireia Benito of the AG Insurance-Soudal Quickstep team crashed out and became the first withdrawal of the race.
It seemed for the longest time that a breakaway would never form and that largely proved to be correct with the exception of an attack from noted Cyclotourist Marta Lach (Ceratizit-WNT) but her gap was never over a minute and quite notably Lidl-Trek had Elisa Balsamo doing some of the work, which suggests that team were not envisioning a sprint at the end of the day.
The pressure was on throughout and the race was attritional, with no real attacks that split the bunch, just riders being dropped as they reached their limits.
When the peloton - or what remained of it - reached the categorised climb, it was Marlen Reusser (SD Worx) who did the majority of the pace-setting, dispatching riders and reducing the group to only the very best. A pre-race contender in Grace Brown was one such casualty of the high pace.
Once Reusser was done, the pace was kept high and approaching the summit, Kopecky sensed her moment to attack and get away from the bunch. This led to the peloton once again finding itself between a rock and a hard place - either ride to bring back Kopecky and get beaten by Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx) who would be able to follow the wheels and do no work as her team mate was out front, or just let Kopecky go. It’s a difficult place to find oneself in, and 41 seconds after Lotte claimed her solo victory; it was Wiebes who outsprinted Charlotte Kool (DSM-Firmenich) and Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) to make yet another SD Worx 1-2.
A view from the peloton: Mischa Bredewold (Team SD Worx)
It was a good day out, quite hot, I felt alright. Not feeling amazing yet but good enough to do the job. I always know that I need a few days to get into the rhythm and hopefully, I can only get better.
It was a hard day because the lead-out towards the final climb started reaalllyyy early, because the Green Jersey sprint was like 15km before the climb, so actually it was a lead-out to the sprint - not to actually sprint but just to be in front. Then there was the technical dangerous sections with the small descent so anyway we need to be in front so that turned out to be a 20km lead-out towards this climb, which we did with the three of us. [It was] Elena Cecchini, Christine Majerus and me.
I think we handled it really well, it was tough but we were all doing good, rode strong and we could put the girls in a good position, where Marlen Reusser would start the climb and Demi [Vollering] also. We had a lot of cards to play with Lorena [Wiebes] and Lotte [Kopecky] who could both win the stage. So we had different scenarios that would work and it’s super nice that the one with Lotte worked out.
It’s great that she won, and she won.. everything! So that’s super nice for her and for the team and she deserves it a lot because she’s riding so strong so we’re really happy about it.
noun: the refuelling
Features to enhance your Tour experience, and refresh your mind after a long day's cycling viewing.
In which Lena Koch introduces a number of the pioneering female riders of the past, exploring their significance and the ways in which their legacies helped shape the modern women's peloton.
Stage 1 - Jeannie Longo
Jeannie Longo won her first national championship in 1979 and her last in 2011. She started when Bernard Hinault was the star on the French cycling firmament and ended her career when French hopes rested on Thomas Voeckler to win the Tour de France.
Her incredibly long career alone was astounding but it was alongside that also incredibly successful. 13 world championships, 59 national championships and 1 Olympic gold medal. Jeannie wasn’t just a French cyclist. She improved the hour record several times.
Jeannie was French women’s cycling during a time when women’s cycling desperately struggled to survive and get a sliver of the recognition men’s cycling received.
Marc Madiot himself told Jeannie during a TV interview in 1986 that cycling wasn’t a sport for women. “Seeing a woman dancing is very pretty, seeing a woman on a bike, it’s ugly, I say it. You, you’re ugly. I'm sorry.” That was followed by Fignon saying that he’s not interested in women’s cycling. Longo was more successful than both of them.
Jeannie took part and won in two different Tour de Frances long before ASO decided to create their own version.
The longevity of her career is in itself a symptom of the stagnation in women’s cycling at the time. With few talents coming through and even fewer finding the financial means to remain active at a pro level.
Jeannie didn’t retire quietly, how could anyone do that after following their passion on the highest level for 30 years? Her goal was her eighth Olympics in 2012 in London.
A whereabouts scandal dismissed by French courts, and her own husband and trainer being involved in a doping scandal made the French federations very hesitant to nominate her.
However, the sport itself solved the federation's problem. While Longo still won the individual time trial in 2011 and got second in the road race, 2012 proved to be the year of young talent.
Marion Rousse (today directrice du Tour de France Femmes) won the road race and Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Ineos) the time trial.
Longo had held out long enough for a new generation to emerge that still dominates races today.
Longo held up the torch of women’s cycling long enough for new women and new talent to emerge and put their mark onto the world Tour.
And she hasn’t left cycling. Winning the Masters time trial world championship last year.
More information here.
Stat du Jour
by Sam Mould
Well it’s underway. The second edition of Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift and what a race have on our hands. To kick off, here are some basic stats about the week we have ahead of us.
The race kicked off with 22 teams made up of 7 riders per team. That’s 154 riders in total.
The 112 riders have an average age of 27 years and 161 days old which ranges from Rachel Neylan of Cofidis at 41 years 136 days to Elise Uijen of Team DSM-Firmenich at 20 years 30 days old.
Through this race they will cover 960.4km and climb 13,255m.
3 of last years 4 jersey winners have returned this year.
The highest point of stage 1 was Côte de Durtol, which comes in at 380.7 Lotte Kopeckys tall.
def: The bits and bobs, the shiny things, the small treasures that would otherwise go unnoticed.
League of Nations
Riders from 27 different nations are taking part in this year's race. We'll be keeping track of the progress of the different nations, and analysing which nations are performing beyond their means, and which might be hoping for more.
Day 1 was, of course, all about Belgium. Lotte Kopecky is one of 7 Belgian riders at the race, a number that's dwarfed by the representation from their low country neighbours, the Netherlands, who lead the pack with 27 riders in total - that's 18% of the entire TDFF peloton. So Belgium can rightly be proud that they are first off the mark this year.
France are also on the board, courtesy of Cédrine Kerbaol of Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling, who took the first maillot blanc as best young rider.
Tweets of the Day
What a way to kick off proceedings - with probably the best start line selfie you're likely to see this year.
And this one from Alice Barnes, summing up the continued importance of growing and supporting women's cycling.
Our photographer Justin Britton is travelling around France capturing the moments that will bring the TDFF to life - look out for galleries of his shots every day in the Dispatch. Here are three collections from stage 1.